It was “desperation dinner night” as the Significant Other and I bid farewell to our quasi-pet bunnies nibbling on backyard grass and headed for a rabbit food dinner of our own at Fresh Healthy Café in the plaza on French Road near Transit.
Ironically, Fresh is ringed by fast-food joints. Smartly, it occupies a space near Catalyst Fitness where a sweaty Zumba class worked out.
It must be said that Fresh “is an international brand, and a global leader in the booming healthy fast-casual food industry.” This is the first franchise in Western New York.
Bright, apple green walls with airy seating greeted us, as did a quirky, friendly guy working the register. In the open kitchen, wheatgrass sprouted, while in a glassed-in private room, a group of folks with smoothies met.
The process is simple. Order and wait for your name. A membership to Catalyst or the nearby BAC nets a 10 percent discount.
The menu is varied with lots of health-conscious choices. If you need humongous portions, Fresh isn’t for you. But that’s the point, you aren’t overindulging, rather eating smart.
Smoothies ($4.49/$5.49) and Super Smoothies ($5.49/$6.49) come with one “fortifier” like whey/soy protein or flaxseed; extras are 50 cents each. “Nutritious Sides” ($3.29) are basically yogurt-fruit parfaits with granola.
The rest of the menu includes breakfast sandwiches, soups, wraps, panini, salads and interestingly, crepes.
We liked that whether a wrap, panini or salad the items come half ($4.59) or full ($6.99). So a Mediterranean can come as a wrap, panini or salad for the same price. Easy. Soups are regular ($3.29) or large ($4.29).
For SigO the special carrot ginger soup; for me a half kale vegetarian salad (beet, feta, kale, tomato, red pepper, red onion, almonds, dried cranberry and balsamic vinaigrette on the side). Both items came with a lovely slice of French baguette that was super fresh with a nice chewy crust. But with wraps on the way, we only sampled.
The soup was fantastic – pureed carrot, but with hunks for texture, too. The sweet-carrot taste had the zippy heat of fresh ginger and was that a hint of curry spices?
The kale salad was just as scrumptious. The best surprise? Fresh beets, not roasted. I loved the crisp texture and sugar-beet taste. Crunchy almonds and tangy dried cranberries had me thinking a full salad would make a great meal.
SigO raved about his Southwestern Fiesta Wrap (spicy chicken breast, cheddar, romaine, red onion, green pepper, black beans, salsa, fresh jalapeño). I was too busy lapping up my Asian Chicken Wrap (chicken breast, romaine, mandarin oranges, almonds, crispy noodles, sesame vinaigrette) to answer. Each bite was a delicious medley in my mouth.
Some might quibble that they would want more chicken in the wrap, but we were fine with the portions. The tastes and textures of the extras make up for what some might perceive is a lack of protein. In truth, we were stuffed, and isn’t that the point of healthy eating?
Kids Combos ($6.49) include a half wrap, panini or salad, or grilled cheese or PBJ, with a 12-ounce drink. Fresh-squeezed juices ($2.49/$2.99), “squeezes” ($5.49/$6.49) and organic coffees, teas and lemonades also are featured.
We’ll be back to try a crepe ($5.99 sweet or vegetarian versions). But for now we were happy to return home to the bunnies with a guilt-free dinner under our belts.
Fresh Healthy Café
Where: 1402 French Road, Depew (771-1870, www.cafefresh.com)
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Extra: Menu calorie count online. Meeting room available to rent. Good music.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes.